Over thirty senior representatives of security entities, including the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Liberia National Police (LNP) and Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) have renewed their commitment to ensure respect for and the protection of human rights.
The representatives said respect for human rights have improved in their operations over the years, with the establishment of several mechanisms, such as Human Rights Sections, Human Rights Coordinators and other channels through which any rights violation can be reported and corrective actions taken.
They renewed their commitment during a one-day technical and advisory support session for mentorship and enhanced human rights mainstreaming and promotion organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in Liberia.
The event was held at a resort over the weekend. The commander of LNP Emergency Response Unit (ERU), Francis A. Williams, said security officers should always exercise care in dealing with civilians and know where and when to apply force.
Williams’ comment came shortly after a facilitator’s presentation on the topic, “Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officer: The Principle of Proportionality.” He said security officers should only use force when necessary, especially when they come in contact with somebody that possesses deadly objects, such as weapons.
“As security personnel, you should use justifiable force that is reasonable, necessary and proportional. Do not be cruel and inhumane during arrest; don’t place suspects in the back of a pickup and step on them,” he warned.
Williams also warned security officers against degrading those they arrest.
He added, “You don’t have to demean suspects by placing them in a cell with feces, urine all on the floor, but to show respect for people you arrest.”
The one-day working session was attended by senior representatives of security agencies, including the LNP, LIS, AFL, Independent National Commission on Human Rights and civil society organizations (CSOs).
It is a series of working sessions meant to improve the overall human rights situation in the country, thus bringing together key individuals from all sectors, including the judiciary, security agencies and members of the Legislature.
An official of the OHCHR, Madam Hilda Oyeleda, said the OHCHR is working globally to strengthen and promote protection of human rights based on a resolution from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
OHCHR, she said, is working to strengthen government and a wide range of stakeholders, including CSOs and key governance institutions in terms of promoting human rights.
The OHCHR Liberia office, she said, is aligning country programs to promote human rights in collaboration with key stakeholders, government and CSOs.
Interactions such as the one-day working session, Madam Oyeleda said, is meant to basically discuss the important topic of accountability and access to justice relating to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).
“Such interactions cannot be held by one entity; we need to collectively put our efforts together to see how to address the issues of SGBV. I am happy for representation here today but wanted to have medical personnel, because they provide support in gathering evidence to assist prosecution,” she said.
Madam Oyeleda then challenged the participants to discuss and come out with concrete and tangible actions to take back to their respective organizations, to respond to issues of SGBV.
Adama K. Dempster, secretary-general of Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, called on all actors of the network to achieve the goals of raising red flags on issues of human rights violations and at the same time helping to find solutions to these problems.
Dempster’s comment was contained in a presentation on the topic, “Networking of CSOs, INCHR and Law Enforcement Actors on Human Rights Issues.”
At the end of the one-day working session, participants agreed to have another working session through which they will strategize concrete actions in protecting issues of human rights.